Recently in the aftermath of the Stonewall Douglas mass shooting I published an article on this blog entitled “Gun Control: For the First Time Since the Aftermath of Sandy Hook I Feel Optimistic”. In that article I expressed my admiration of the high school students from that beleaguered school who took on the issue of gun control; their eloquent and heartfelt arguments stirring more passion on the subject than we had experienced in some time. I also expressed my firm opinion that their voices would make a real difference in insuring that reasonable gun control laws such as the elimination of bump stocks, expanding background checks, raising the age required to purchase long guns, and perhaps even eliminating assault weapons will ultimately get real consideration.
I posted links to that blog article on Facebook. I received many encouraging replies to my Facebook posts, but some of the comments on the article expressed understandable skepticism such as “I’ll believe it when I see it”, or “We’ll see”, etc. Other replies expressed opinions that there is no way that the Republican controlled Congress will buck the NRA and pass any meaningful gun legislation. That point of view is also very understandable given that one mass shooting after another has occurred and all we have ever heard from Republican members of Congress are offerings of “thoughts and prayers”.
We know that the NRA does not represent the views all gun owners (80%+ of whom favor universal background checks), but only those of their most dedicated cadre of very conservative and extremely motivated members and, most significantly, the gun companies that want to continue to sell as many guns as possible to as many people as possible. While it makes perfect sense that we should include assault weapons in the existing federal law that prohibits the sale of handguns to those under the age of 21, gun manufactures don’t want to lose the opportunity to sell weapons of war to kids. And of course most Republican law makers will go along with such nonsense because are scared stiff that the NRA will support their opponents in their next primary elections.
So skepticism in this case is again very understandable, but what concerns me is that progressives who are skeptical may also have a tendency to sit back and do nothing. After all, if you have no faith that anything will come of your work on an issue, there is a strong temptation is to not engage in the endeavor. There may even be a tendency among some to sit back and take perverse pleasure as their skepticism become a self-fulfilling prophesy. However, I truly believe that in this case such attitudes are very shortsighted.
Whether you believe it or not, the turning point has been reached on the gun control efforts. For one thing the American voting public is coming to the realization at long last that no matter how many times the Republicans and the NRA try to deflect the conversation to other topics like mental illness and inadequate law enforcement efforts, if everything else fails, as it usually does, the only way to at least reduce the carnage is to limit access to guns, especially assault weapons which can be used to kill people most efficiently.
And don’t underestimate the young people of Stonewall Douglas and the thousands of others like them across the nation who are joining to speak out and protest. They don’t intend to let this issue die, and they won’t. Those who value their political futures or their ability to make profits over saving the lives of innocent Americans will find it extremely difficult to confront the actual victims– those who witnessed the carnage with their own eyes and who were themselves targets who were fortunate enough to escape.
We can not allow our skepticism to paralyze us! We must join the fight for a solution least we become part of problem. Let’s join these brave young people, the future leaders of our nation, and do everything we can to further their cause. Early on we may only get the banning of bump stocks and possibly a partial strengthening of the background check process, and that is far from enough. And then again, we may initially get nothing at all, but the real payoff is later.
We need to keep join these young people in keeping the issue at the forefront of American consciousness. Change is coming. The mid-term elections are almost upon us and the last thing a Republican incumbent in a purple state or district wants to face is an active national debate on gun control. They will have to decide between supporting the NRA, so that they can get through the Republican primaries unscathed, or going against dictates of the NRA to have a better chance in the general election. That will be a Hobson’s choice; either decision could be politically fatal. Then two years after that is the presidential election year with its associated Congressional contests. Remember, that many of the young people who are speaking out and demonstrating today will be voting in 2020.
If for no other reason, and there plenty of others that are much more important, we need to work hard to keep sensible gun control foremost in the minds of the American electorate because it can be a winning issue in upcoming elections.
So it is okay to be skeptical because the outlook for meaningful gun laws is not great today as long as we get off of our asses and work for a better tomorrow.